Harley-Davidson’s electric bike prototype has the potential to appeal to younger riders and help broaden the company’s current clientele, according to a new review.
For most of the motorcycle company’s 114-year history, Harley has been synonymous with bikes that are heavy and brash. Over the last few years, H-D began adding smaller motorcycles to its lineup in order to attract buyers outside of its traditional middle-aged male customer.
Last summer, Harley took this concept in reduction even further with its first electric prototype. Centered around an industrial-looking design, the LiveWire is powered by a 55-kilowatt electric motor and a single speed transmission. Rated at 74-horsepower, the bike can’t quite ton-up, with a top speed of 92 mph. Further details about the battery and other specs haven’t been released.
Harley launched the bike with Project LiveWire, a tour of U.S. dealerships that included free test drives, a simulator for unlicensed riders, an abundance of media coverage and even its own social hashtag.
Autoblog writer Domenick Yoney joined the tour at a Harley dealership near Jacksonville, Florida. In his review, he takes readers through his test drive and talks about the bike’s potential future.
Plenty of journalists have written about their experience with the LiveWire, but what sets Yoney’s review apart is that – despite his profession – Yoney has spent very little time riding electric motorcycles. However, he says, this may be what makes his opinion especially relevant.
“If Harley-Davidson wants to continue to grow its market with an electric offering, I’m the kind of person it needs to attract,” said Yoney. “And the bike to woo me and my fellow newbies must be approachable, manageable, yet compelling.”
For the beginner, Yoney says the LiveWire is stable standing still, easy to start and is unwavering at low speeds. His group tested the bikes on a street route, which kept speeds from exceeding the 45 mph limit. By spacing himself a little behind the pack, Yoney is able to briefly try out the LiveWire’s off-the-line acceleration, which he calls “sweetly satisfying.”
The bike isn’t as smooth, however, when the regenerative braking engages. After the throttle is released the pull is so severe that Yoney compares it to “throwing out an anchor,” saying the system needs more refinement.
Yoney’s remarks on the ride is relatively brief, with no details on the LiveWire’s lean around corners or its comfort. There’s no mention of the bike’s whirring motor, a sound that is in complete opposition to the blasts normally expected from a Harley’s tailpipe. Unfortunately, because of his lack of experience, Yoney also isn’t able to compare the test drive to other electric bikes.
Yoney admits that when it comes to motorcycles, Harley-Davidson never caught held his attention. Instead, he gravitated towards Japanese bikes like Yamaha and Honda; not even the smaller Harley-Davidson Street line appealed to him.
But that changed after one afternoon of riding.
“I’ve been converted from a non-fan to a potential customer,” says Yoney.
For 2015, Harley will be taking Project LiveWire tour to Canada and Europe, and hasn’t confirmed if the bike will make it past the prototype phase.
“Any final decisions about whether to bring an electric motorcycle to market – and when – will be made at a later date,” stated the company on their website. Harley declined to add any further comment on the project.